Oct 24, 2008

come on, we'll finish together

i coach high school cross country. this is my second year of stepping into the role of running coach and it is a role i deeply hope can continue for years to come.

we had a meet this afternoon in escondido at one of my favorite sites, kit carson park. for those of you who do not know, escondido is inland and away from the coast - which equals sizzling temperatures. where i live and where i coach we are directly on the coastline so rarely does it rise above 80 during the season, and even when it does we are sweetly cooled with the sea breeze or the thin layer of a pacific fog. today's meet however was a runner's nightmare - hot and direct sunlight beating its ruthless rays into your skin.

it was because of this heat that i was literally stilled by one of the most delicate pictures of our walk with christ. hear me out on this one and keep reading. 

stephanie is one of my runners and she was bumped up to varsity for the race. she is already an incredible runner so it was not a colossal surprise or even unusual for her to run varsity. stephanie also tends to place an unbearable amount of pressure on herself to compete in a way that surpasses most human abilities. 

as i was sprinting my way around the course from cheering station to cheering station, i was thrilled to finally make my way to the home stretch line where i could run with stephanie and the other girls as they finish. as i approached the mark, a handful of my junior varsity runners ran up shouting that stephanie was about to fall out - she wasn't looking good. it isn't abnormal for our girls to crash when the weather is as brutal as it was; we are coastal runners who rarely deal with boiling temperatures. but without a moments hesitation i darted down the course to find stephanie. it took no time at all.  from afar she looked about as confident and strong as a overcooked spaghetti noodle. sprinting faster still i caught up to her and began running with her. one, two, three times she nearly collapsed all together. after that i crossed the course line and went to her side and told her it was ok to not finish the race. through raspy, choking breaths she somehow formed the words, "i want to finish". 

i too am a runner, i too am stubborn. i understood her commitment so i resumed my position outside the race boundary lines and opted to run with her from the side, cheering for her and coaching her breathing patterns. as i spectated this dedicated athlete and runners passing her by the dozens, she still pressed on. again and again her legs gave out from under her and by some grace she never fully collapsed. just 20 meters from the finish line another runner from a different school came up behind stephanie, i was sure she too would pass her by. but instead what i witnessed was true humility. (ironically enough i was just thinking how this is something that is so rarely modeled well). this was an athlete of maybe 16 years of age and she decided to forfeit her race and run to the aid of another. as if it were no unusual act at all, this girl took stephanie's arm and put it over her shoulder and said, "come on, we'll finish together".

i think of how many times in my life my legs were like a limp, stringy noodle and i could not possibly carry on any further; and just then a friend would say to me, "come on, we'll finish together". it is this statement where god birthed community. it is this proclamation of partnership where god created a bride for his son. it is this statement where true, authentic humility is displayed.

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